All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan ***
‘Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her. It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life. Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.’
All We Shall Know is another title which I requested from Netgalley, from an author I’ve heard a little about but have never read. I tend not to read much Irish fiction, especially that which is encompassed by the broad title ‘contemporary’, but the premise intrigued me, and I thought I’d give it a go. I started it just by chance to see what it was like, and found it immediately engrossing. The whole is gritty, and the prose is startling at times. The narrative voice was realistic in a refreshing way; you’ll know what I mean if you read this. I had no real idea throughout about the direction which the story would take, and was quite surprised at the sheer scale of the emotional depth in such a slim novel.
The drawback for me was that the Irish dialect used throughout was rather overdone. I see its necessity, sure, but phrasing was repeated rather a lot, and such inclusion put me off reading at points. The sections of conversation which lasted past two or three exchanges felt a little jarring to read. I did not feel as though the novel was quite sustained throughout; its beginning was compelling, but the rest of the book just didn’t quite match it. An odd story, but an interesting one.
The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan ***
I borrowed this from the Mitchell Library (which is, frankly, the most incredible bookish place I’ve ever visited). Having read both The Gracekeepers and A Portable Shelter, I already knew that I really enjoy Logan’s writing; she is creative and inventive, qualities which are often difficult to achieve, particularly in the field of contemporary fiction.
As with a lot of the strong short story collections which I have come across, I did not adore every tale here, but I did admire them all, both in the strength of their writing, and the use of literary techniques. Sadly, some of the stories felt a little rushed or unfinished, and several ended a little too abruptly for my liking. A couple of the tales had so much scope, but I do not feel as though their potential was fully realised.
As far as ideas go, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales is fresh, but it is not quite what I was expecting, I must admit. A lot of mystery is embedded into the stories, and much of the time, it was nowhere near as well wrought as it could have been. The whole was rather intriguing, but it does not quite match up to my favourite short story collections, as I thought it may have done when I began to read.